Time after time I find the major problem with human theories, is humans. We tend to put a lot of confidence in human ability, goodness, and wisdom to understand and solve the problems of the world. One of the hotly contested issues in the church right now is the subject of social justice. When we talk about social justice, we are considering the just treatment of humans in society and how to deal rightly with societal ills. Especially when considering the subjects of race and gender, this debate has caused major divisions among conservative, American evangelicals.
In the current debate about social justice I have heard many scholars share opinions about how much we should engage with a human theory called (Social) Critical Theory. Critical theory seeks to govern equality through diversity in every sphere in the eradication of privilege or any perceived superiority. This means that equality in diversity must be procured geographically, economically, psychologically and even politically. If this is achieved in society, it brings equal opportunity and justice for all.
As stated earlier, the one problem with Critical Theory is humans. When justice is left up to humans, there is no true justice. Isaiah makes this point very clear.
Isaiah 59:4 No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
Even when talking to people who have suffered the injustice of exile, God sees that human justice falls short on every account. Humans go to court to find justice according to their own definition of what that justice is. Nobody goes to the courts in an honest manner. What Isaiah means by this is that when we go to court to fight for our rights and justice, we do not go in acknowledgment of the justice that should be brought upon us. We seek justice dishonestly when we ignore that we are greater sinners against God than anyone else can ever be toward us. As a result, human justice can only be constructed of lies and begets mischief and sin. We ultimately desire justice apart from righteousness that can only come from God.
We have certainly seen this in our country in the major issues of our day. Christians have become unjust in the eyes of a community that desires equal rights for women to murder their babies or for marriage to go beyond the boundaries of one man for one woman. Human courts are deciding in favor of a justice without righteousness; a justice that breeds sin and mischief.
Isaiah then says, “They hatch adders' eggs; they weave the spider's web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore, justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.”(59:5-9)
The problem with social Critical Theory is that it misses the nature of the human heart. It misses the fact so often the equality in diversity that humans desire comes from selfish motivations that can only lead away from God’s righteousness. The answer to the social justice concerns of today’s society is not diversity quotas but regeneration through the gospel of Christ. We need new hearts. The world will never get justice right and Christians should never put their hope in it even being possible.
Does this mean that the church is powerless when it comes to social justice? No. We get to be the light and salt of the gospel in a dark world. Every Christian in every place has opportunity to show that the most level ground for everyone is at the foot of the cross. It is there where we are either lost for all eternity in rejection of Christ or adopted into the family of God with a full and eternal inheritance. The cross is the place of honest justice where we are all the chief of sinners. It is the place where true justice is declared and God’s wrath upon sin is poured out in the fury of his righteousness. It is the place where the price is paid in full for all those who will put their faith in Jesus Christ. It is the place where mercy reigns while justice is never ignored. There is no other place of justice like it.